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Kids can dig into history
April 23, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Anne James, director of the Riverside Discovery Center, inspects one of the replica dinosaur bones at the “Dino Dig” site with consulting paleontologist Lorin King.

Most kids, no matter their age, think it would be cool to dig for dinosaur bones. Later this spring, they’ll have the chance.
Riverside Discovery Center is now constructing an interactive “Dino Dig” site filled with replica dinosaur bones for kids to unearth the past.

The site is located north of the playground at the center and will provide a hands-on opportunity for children of all ages to learn about dinosaurs and some of the methods used to unearth their fossils.

“Our board decided that until we can build a children’s museum, we would have discovery opportunities around every corner here at the zoo,” said RDC Director Anne James. “Last year, we created a circular pathway for people to enjoy the facility. We also added the Heritage Barn to display some heritage animals that were brought to North America in the 1800s. Then we added a petting zoo.”

The Dino Dig is the latest addition. “We’re opening up a world of discovery for our children to enjoy,” James said. “This will be the first time dinosaurs have been discovered in western Nebraska.”
The nearest discovered dinosaur fossils in our state was the plesiosaur, found in northeast Nebraska. During the era of the dinosaurs, much of western Nebraska was under a huge inland sea. Consequently, no fossils were found in this area.

“These museum quality fossil pieces were produced from the original molds of examples from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods,” James said. “They include a variety of examples – even a T-Rex tooth.”
Lorin King is the consulting paleontologist for the project. “We have a replica of a partial T-Rex skull and a partial skull of a triceratops, which lived at the same time. We also have some femurs from the big sauropods, herbivores that ranged up to 80 or 90 tons and were 70 to 80 feet long.”

King said the exhibit will be a great educational tool because the fossils are spread out according to the ages in which the animals lived. The kids will have brushes, dustpans and be able to excavate, just what a paleontologist would do.

“Paleontology isn’t just for kids,” he said. “It’s also for the young at heart. Paleontologists are basically big kids that are overeducated. We never grew out of our love of dinosaurs.”
Watch for announcements for the official opening of the exhibit later this spring.
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